Watershed management

Mountains are an important source of water, energy and biological diversity. Furthermore, they are a source of such key resources as minerals, forest products and agricultural products and of recreation. In Agenda 21 - a 40-chapter statement of goals and potential programmes produced by delegates at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro - chapter 13 was devoted to mountains (Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development).

Two programme areas are included in this chapter to further elaborate the problem of fragile ecosystems with regard to all mountains of the world. These are: 1. Generating and strengthening knowledge about the ecology and sustainable development of mountain ecosystems; 2. Promoting integrated watershed development and alternative livelihood opportunities.

Watersheds are drainage or catchment areas where fresh mountain water gathers and flows downstream to feed rivers and lakes, before running into the ocean. More than half of the world's population depends directly on these mountain watersheds for water to grow food, generate energy and, most importantly, to drink.

FAO is meeting the challenges of sustainable mountain development and watershed management in many ways around the world. The scope of FAO's work in mountains and watersheds is broad and extensive. Across its technical departments FAO is addressing the needs of mountain people and mountain environments through its normative work, field programme, direct country support and contribution to global partnerships.

Normative Work

  • investigating food insecurity and malnutrition in mountain watersheds and carrying out vulnerability assessments
  • documenting best practices in watershed management and sustainable mountain development.
  • devising technical guidelines, methodologies and tools for watershed management and conservation The Next generation of watershed management initiative.
  • charting trends in mountain legislation and assisting countries improve mountain policies and laws related to integrated watershed management.
  • servicing the European Forrestry Commission Working Party on the Management of Mountain Watersheds

Field Programme

  • assisting countries tackle mountain issues through capacity-building, institutional strengthening and pilot field activities within the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme. Projects are already underway or completed in Armenia, Cuba, Tajikistan, and North Korea, while others are under development in Poland, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Mexico. (See database on sustainable mountain development related field projects)
  • designing and implementing strategies, programmes and projects in watershed management with specific relevance to food security, watershed management, sustainable livelihoods, policy and law, enterprise development, etc, in mountainous regions around the world.

last updated:  Wednesday, October 24, 2012